This think piece was erected today in Shoreditch by Dogs Trust, with each of the puppies on the billboard representing a real live one, caught up in the abhorrent puppy smuggling trade across Europe. To fuel our desire for fashionable breeds, there's money to made on this route, from the farmers in Eastern European with no welfare legislation, to the bribed vets changing microchip details, to the internet sellers here in Britain. Enduring a journey of thousands of miles, these puppies are often stressed, underage and uncared for, so it's little wonder that one in 10 will die within three weeks of purchase, leaving a heartbroken family to pick up the pieces.
Today, passers-by to this wall will be given the chance to learn the individual stories of these puppies, as everyone is encouraged to pick up a toy. The screen behind the puppies is a computer monitor, highlighting the chosen method of transaction that puppy dealers find easy to hide behind.
Dachshund puppy Polly was born in Lithuania and smuggled into Britain on a ferry. She was found in the boot of a car, unvaccinated, full of worms and incredibly unwell. Tragically, she was the only one of her litter to survive. Dachshunds are the third most popular dog to traffic into this country illegally - making up 20% of all imports.
Mabel and Peggy
These two are French Bulldogs, a breed thrown into the spotlight by a plethora of celebrity owners. Their quirky ears and cute, if dangerously flat, faces have made them one of the most sought after dogs to own today. It's little wonder then that almost a quarter of all illegally imported puppies are Frenchies - the most common breed to smuggle of any. Mabel and Peggy would have likely been sold online had they not been impounded and saved from uncertainty.
Runa Hanaghan, Deputy Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said, “The figures from our landmark quarantine pilot make for grim reading; around one in 10 smuggled puppies are at risk of dying within their first three weeks in the country and those that do survive have suffered terribly in the process of getting here. The young dogs that died in quarantine, despite the expert care of Dogs Trust, were destined to end up with families who in turn would have suffered the heartache of losing a puppy.
“Deciding to get a puppy is a huge responsibility that should not be a snap decision. Nobody would dream of buying one if they knew it would have to go through appalling conditions to get to them. We hope our billboard will communicate that, whether you pluck a dog from a billboard on the street or click a link in an online advert, it shouldn’t be this easy to get a puppy.”
Featured image: Matt Alexander/PA Wire